Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States
This chapter examines whether during Yeltsin’s first Presidency Russia used the CIS framework as a vehicle of hegemony over the former Soviet states, and as an instrument of integration of the CIS states into a Russian-led union; or whether instead, Russia’s policies reflected an attempt by Moscow to establish close political, military and economic cooperation and integration, on a voluntary basis, among the CIS states, for the benefit of both Russia and the other CIS member states. The chapter analyses Russia’s motivations behind the creation of the CIS, as well as the Kremlin’s policies regarding CIS military and economic integration, to determine whether they fitted the pattern of ‘neo-imperial’ behaviour. The chapter shows that Russian leaders engaged in active efforts aimed at deepening political, military and economic integration among the CIS states. While this might suggest that Russia attempted and managed, to a certain extent, to restore a ‘sphere of influence’ or ‘informal empire’ in the CIS, a close examination shows that Russian leaders did not pursue a coherent and coordinated strategy of empire-building in the CIS, although their rhetoric might at times suggest otherwise. On the contrary, Russia’s CIS policies varied depending on domestic political developments and on Russia’s financial capabilities at each opportunity. Russia’s policies were much more restrained than is frequently assumed, especially in the economic sphere, and often reflected Russia’s legitimate concern of managing the transition towards the development of truly independent states within the post-Soviet space. Finally, Russia’s successes were often offset by a lack of implementation.